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Ep. 31 - Creating a Die-Hard Community Around Your Brand with Jimmy Hickey

Jimmy Hickey is the founder of Findlay Hats. Before that, he was a full-time photographer. He made a comfortable living doing it, but it was very seasonal. Because of that, and how saturated it was becoming, he started investigating other avenues for income.

The original concept for the hats started when Jimmy was around 14. While river rafting through the Hollywood Gorge, they capsized and he ended up losing his favorite hat. The next time he was rafting, he cut a hole in the sweatband of the hat and put a shoelace through it, which was the first version of the Findlay Hat.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [5:20] Handing off the things you like to do in your business
  • [9:48] Coming up with the idea for Findlay Hat
  • [12:07] Getting your product patented
  • [15:30] Building a community around your brand
  • [17:45] Investing in social media interaction
  • [20:00] Squarespace vs Shopify
  • [22:30] Getting your first sales
  • [24:35] Ramping up your marketing
  • [28:58] Diversifying your marketing
  • [32:25] Creating a system for producing content
  • [34:54] Mistakes to avoid in entrepreneurship

Resources:

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Transcript:

 

Jimmy Hickey

Just don't dive-in thinking it's going to be great from the beginning because you've got to make sacrifices, you got to put in the work, you got to put in the hours.

 

If you're doing it just for the money, if you're doing it just because you think it would create the lifestyle you want immediately, then you're definitely not doing it for the right reasons

 

Annette Grant

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce where we are dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners.

 

Chase Clymer

I'm your host, Chase Clymer

 

Annette Grant

And I'm your host, Annette Grant.

 

Chase Clymer

And we believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game.

 

Annette Grant

If you're struggling to scale your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us. visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more.

 

Chase Clymer

And let's get on with the show. In today's episode of Honest Ecommerce, we welcome Jimmy Hickey, the founder of Findlay Hats sharing his merchant journey.

 

Jimmy Hickey

All right everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. This is the first time we're trying video. So this is a crowning achievement. Today, we welcome to the show, Jimmy Hickey from Findlay Hats. How're you doing today?

 

Woo! I'm doing grand. I got my Yerba Mate. I'm sitting pretty and ready for a good day.

 

Awesome. With the power of technology, we are hundreds of thousands of miles apart. I don't know how far away we are, actually. I'd say 1000 maybe from Portland?

 

Yeah, that sounds about right. Maybe a little past that.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, all I know is way back when I was in the band, one time, we had to drive from Columbus, Ohio, all the way to Seattle, Washington (with no stops). And that's when I contemplated quitting music for the first time.

 

Jimmy Hickey

That's fair enough. Yeah. Wow. I think those long drives, they either make or break you. And it almost broke you but it sounds like you survived. So...

 

Chase Clymer

I (got) stuck doing music for way too long. I still have a love for it. And I'm still kind of involved if anyone knows me beyond this podcast.

 

So with that being said, I'm so excited to have Jimmy on the show. He's built an amazing business. (This is) another one of our founders series episodes, I guess. (What) we're doing here. So anyway, take us back before Findlay Hats. What were you doing?

 

Jimmy Hickey

So, prior to Findlay, I was a full-time photographer, and action portrait, and documentary. Those are the three main things I was interested in. My bread and butter were just super simple senior portraits. I just take senior portraits for families and it kind of varies across the country.

 

But at least out here, people are paying a lot for senior portraits. I made a pretty comfortable living doing that. The downside was it was super seasonal. The commercial photography was cool because I got to work with different companies but the downside there was the budget for commercial work was nothing.

 

I went to school for commercial photography and legitimately, out of all the commercial clients I had, the only company that ever paid --what we were taught to charge for a normal day rate or the commercial shoot-- was Nike.

 

So past that, every other commercial client I had had no budget. And being on the other side of the coin, I kinda see that (now). And then there's just no money in documentary photography. So it was something I was passionate about. I love to create, I love to have something in my mind and then turn it into a reality.

 

And photography was scratching that itch, but because it was so seasonal and because it's getting more and more saturated every day, it was a very difficult and competitive marketplace to be in.

 

So I started investigating other avenues for income, at least as a side project.

 

Chase Clymer

So with your photography, are you a Canon or a Nikon man?

 

Canon all day.

 

Oh, we're best friends now.

 

Jimmy Hickey

All right, yeah.

 

Chase Clymer

It's gonna make comments happen and people are going to...

 

Jimmy Hickey

(laughs)

 

Chase Clymer

I chose a side. You're not supposed to.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah. Chase Jarvis says that the best camera in the world is the one in your hands. So...

 

Chase Clymer

Oh, yeah. My favorite comment back when I was shooting a lot, which is funny. So that's how I got into this side of the business, too.

 

Back when I was in the band, I was doing photography, I was shooting, like promotion photos for the bands, I was shooting for magazines, I was doing all sorts of stuff, but I couldn't do that on the road.

 

You can't line up gigs in 32 cities, you know what I mean? That is impossible. So that's when I started getting more into web design, and marketing, and learning all the kind of skills that I have today.

 

But I still have a huge passion for photography when I get to grab the camera and go have fun, it's still really fun for me.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, especially with the stress (being) less on your back for having to do stuff when you're doing it more on your terms versus like trying to make it happen for others.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, how often when are you doing something for your business? When you go, "I'm just gonna go and take this picture."

 

Jimmy Hickey

I do a majority of the content creation. One of our marketing girls also does a lot of video stuff. We usually tag-team video projects. I'll do most of the photo stuff, and she'll do most of the video editing.

 

Chase Clymer

That's awesome. You can keep the costs down, having those skills in-house and giving you something to do with the day-to-day.

Jimmy Hickey

Oh yeah. It's really tough signing off on photo work because it's just... Anytime I pass it off to another person or anything, it's tough to get my full seal of approval when it comes to photo stuff because I got a very peculiar eye and I'm very... I just like having full creative control over that aspect more than any other thing.

 

But that skill set comes in handy for content creation, for social media stuff or Instagram posts. It's really easy to get a quick quality professional shot. Set up some lighting, set up some good stuff there so. It comes in handy.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, I think that's the hardest part of growing any business: handing off the stuff that you are doing really, really well. I'm personally having trouble letting go of our newsletter. I still do it every week.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Nice. What brought you to the breaking point there to have to pass it off?

 

Chase Clymer

Other things are getting in the way and I don't want to miss a week. I don't want my responsibilities as a partner here to get in the way of me like producing that content.

 

Kurt Elster said something really cool when I saw him speak a few years ago. He was like, "It's kind of like head work or hand work. If you don't need to think about it and it's got kind of a script behind it, why are you still doing it?"

 

So I try to take that stuff to heart and get the stuff off my plate. Because there's... Within the agency world or just any service business, there's like that $1000 an hour activity that only you can do as the business owner.

 

And that's where I need to focus half my time. I don't need to be running an email. That's not really that important.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah, absolutely. Especially in (the) same boat on our email marketing. The less of that plus the things that I enjoy doing is actually one of my least favorite aspects of marketing on our end. It's email marketing.

 

So, within the last month, we started work with an agency that's doing a really great job. But it's just... That was one of my most difficult genres of work. Creating emails that would get a high open-rate, high click rate or just work.

 

And so working with an agency, with someone who just specializes in that, has been a great, great feeling. So that's a good example of hiring for weakness. That was a very easy one to sign off on, minus the new expense.

 

But yeah, I agree with you fully. Passing off the stuff you enjoy and like is definitely a tough one.

 

Chase Clymer

Absolutely. Cool. So let's take it back to the beginning. So after photography, what prompted a hat brand? Where'd you get into that?

 

Jimmy Hickey

So, the original concept for our hats, I actually invented when I was, 12 or 13 or 14, somewhere in that age range. I want to say closer to 14 probably. But I was rafting down the mighty Toutle River. It's like this beautiful... Are you familiar with Mount St. Helens, out here?

 

Chase Clymer

Yes.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Our volcano? Yeah. So, the Toutle river is one of the rivers that just, I think, is a glacier runoff from it. And when Mount St. Helens erupted it's basically just like washed out this river and there's like... When you're rafting down it, you'll see logging trucks, and cars, and houses, and stuff. It's crazy. Huge piles of rebar, 20 feet tall 30 feet wide. It's crazy.

 

There's a lot of weird debris out there because of the eruption, so it's a really cool little place to raft. And every summer, we go out there and do rafting.

 

And I'm a hat addict. I pretty much have a hat on my head from when I get out of bed to when I get to bed in the evening. That's very few times that this hat is not on my head. Dinner with my parents, (I) will take it off for my mom. That's about it.

 

So, rafting is no exception. And (we did) some rafting and we went through the Hollywood gorge --which is the most... The sketchiest part of the Toutle River. People die there. It's a heavy-duty spot. It definitely gets your adrenaline pumping.-- You have to stay left and then go immediately right. And if you mess up, it's no good.

 

Well, we messed up and capsized the raft. Along with falling off the raft, I lost my favorite hat which was this quilted, khaki, Burton hat that had an S pattern of quilting all around it. And it was a bummer because I love that hat.

 

There were some good times in that hat and (I) had to spend the rest of the day without having my head on a hot summer day.

 

And I think I had a really bad haircut at the time, too. A humorously bad haircut. The opposite of a monk haircut, like a halo.

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm.

 

Jimmy Hickey

We were just messing around. I don't really know. Either way, I had to deal with that all day. So the next time we rafted, I'm like, "Yeah. I'm just not gonna lose my hat this time."

 

So, I took a pocket knife, cut a hole, right here in the sweatband of the hat on each side, and took my shoelace out of my shoes, and made my first Findlay hat with the laces down and how we got the beauty of the video. I can show... This is a much more advanced version of it, but like that stuff was bad. (A) really bad clip.

 

But, yeah. So it was my first water hat. Basically, the lace would keep your hat on your head. So, next time you capsize the raft, you don't have to worry about the hat falling off. So, I wore it, went rafting. I forget if I actually did put it to the test. (If it) fell out or not. Regardless, we didn't lose my hat. And I called it my "water hat."

 

Every time I went out rafting, or on a boat or... I think I just wore that hat, exclusively. And every time I worked, (people were like) "Man, that hat's so sick. Where'd you get it?" I was like, "I made it myself."

 

And (they were) like, "Cool. If you make more, I'd buy one." And fast forward (to) 8, 9, (or) 10 years I decided to make more.

 

Chase Clymer

That's an awesome story. A brilliant concept. Did it just come to you? You were just looking at your shoes, looking at your hat and (be like), "Oh. (I'll) put that together."

 

Jimmy Hickey

Honestly, the exact thought process that came to me, I have no idea what or how I decided to do that. I just remember it was just like second nature, "I need to problem-solve here."

 

And it's like, "Okay, well I can do this." And I have a very faint memory of the actual cutting of the hat with the pocket knife. And I have no process of what actually made me like, "Yeah, I'm gonna take the laces out and just do this." So...

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah. The best ideas are just so simple and so easy to execute. So that's proof.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Right. Yeah. It's a pretty simple concept that has grown in the past. We're going on 6 years now. Grown from just a simple idea that helped get my hat on my head (protected from) rafting that day to, we're a 12-person team.

 

We're doing hats around the planet and that's crazy how just one little lace added to a hat has made a pretty big impact on things. We're talking right now because of that little lace thing. (laughs)

 

Chase Clymer

Absolutely.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah. I think that's beautiful. That's a patent for it.

 

Chase Clymer

Officially?

 

Jimmy Hickey

Oh yeah. Nice and official.

 

Chase Clymer

You're probably the first patent owner that I've had on the podcast.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah.

 

Chase Clymer

How would you... One, how's that process? Sounds probably horrible. Two, how has it affected your business?

 

Jimmy Hickey

So, the patent (process) wasn't terrible. We had a really good attorney for it. Basically, before we got the patent process started, he was referred to by a friend. He was into photography. A hobbyist, but we talked shop about photography.

 

And actually, through that, I was able to gauge how much of it... If he was shifty or not, And he was completely... He knew his stuff when it came to photography. He wasn't exaggerating.

 

Basically I trusted him talking on a one-to-one level with photography. I feel like with amateurs or just anyone who's not really in the scene it (was) exaggerated or maybe rubbed me the wrong way. But he was super... He was knowledgeable. He wasn't over the top. I trust him in photography.

 

(I'm) like, "Okay, I probably can trust him with our app process." And honestly, we sat down, he took some notes, he made some sketches, and he told me like, "It'll be like probably $4500 to start and it'll probably end up going between $7K and $10K after." This was probably a year or two after we started. And I can expand a little bit more into that it's actually a good reason.

 

At some point, I wanted to touch on why we didn't get a patent immediately. But after a year or two, after we proved that we had enough of a business to invest that money in it, we moved forward with it. But the process was pretty simple.

 

We could literally look at them and ask me questions and then left. But it was expensive because every couple of months we get a $500 to a $1200 invoice from them to pay. And that just kept going for... I think I still have one over here. It's constant. They keep coming in still because you have to go through multiple revisions.

 

Generally, your patent will never get approved (the) first try. Generally, it has to go through like... They'll find multiple points that are wrong with it, and then they have to fight... You have to counter those points or adjust those points.

 

And each time you're paying more money to the team of lawyers to make those adjustments. So yeah, all said and done. It took 2 and a half to 3 years, if at least 2 years and it was close to $9,000 or so. I think our final big invoice, we still have to pay for because we had to fight it.

 

The patent office approved it and then put us through another hoop where we had to still fight to claim it or still claim it versus three other styles that were semi (or) had similar points that were related to ours, but not the exact same. Yeah. (laughs)

 

Chase Clymer

So, let's go back to the beginning of the company, the first couple of years. Why didn't you get the patent? (Was it because) it was expensive? And then why did you need to get it after a certain while?

 

Jimmy Hickey

So we didn't get it at first because of the cost. We just couldn't afford to do it. And then a family friend, --and this is actually some of the best advice we've ever got for Findlay stuff. This was before or right after Findlay launched.

 

At a Christmas Eve party, there's a family friend. He's like a real estate attorney or something. So he's... (He) knows legalese but he doesn't know patent law. But he was looking at the late hat he's like, "I don't think you can actually get a patent for that. It's just too simple. So what you should worry about instead is building a strong community that will... Basically, when someone does rip that hat off, you'll own the space.”

 

“And the community will basically stand up be like, ‘Yo. That's not right. This is a Findlay hat. That's not your thing.’” So with that in mind, that's why we really focused heavily on creating the “Findlay Force”, which is the community around our brand.

 

We've tried to promote it as more than just customers. It's a community. And so, we have a private group of people who just collect our hats or people who are really into this team. We try to have an open and active dialogue with our customers and community.

 

We do all of these community-building things for people that support our hats. And as a result, we have this really strong tight-knit group of customers who... One, obviously, word of mouth is huge. But two... I guess word of mouth is the biggest piece of it... It's been good having the Findlay Force. I guess I can just keep it simple at that end.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah. It's one of those things like, when you see someone wearing an Adidas shirt on the street or something... --Unless it's a dope design-- no one's going to be like, "Hell yeah, man! Adidas!"

 

But with Findlay when someone sees someone another Findlay Force member out in the wild, it's an actual thing. People are like, "Hey, what's up Findlay Force?" And talk. It's a conversation starter. It's an automatic friend if you're wearing Findlay.

 

They actually have a really cool post on our Facebook right now where it's, "Have you run into a Findlay Force member in the wild?" And I haven't checked it today yet, but before I went to bed last night, it had 90 different responses to people saying that, told stories that (they've) run into people.

 

And that all stems from the simple idea that we couldn't afford to get a patent. We didn't know if we'd get a patent so we wanted to have a community that would defend us.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah. That’s just taking the brand to the next level. You just invested in your brand, building conversation and a community around the brand itself, which was pretty much free to do. It just took work, good content, good ideas.

 

Because you didn't have the capital to trademark. --Not trademark it. Sorry.-- But to get the patent for it at that time.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah.

 

Chase Clymer

I'm sure it's paid off in dividends now, (from) that time in the beginning.

 

Jimmy Hickey

It's one of those things where we still invest heavily. We have two people who... I'm sorry. 3 people, including myself, who just hit our Facebook Comments, Instagram comments, respond (to) as many people as we can. I feel that it's something that is difficult to scale as we have literally hundreds of thousands of comments to go through.

 

Because, we've all these different ads for prospecting and retargeting, all this stuff, there's pretty much endless flow of comments to hit. As soon as you finish, get to the bottom of it, there are 50 new ones to get to.

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Those comments are a way to create all these genuine, good interactions with our customers. And as a result... We put a face to the brand, we put an identity to the brand and then they have a positive experience with us even if it's just like, "Hey, look at this hat. What do you think?"

 

And then we'll respond something super simple like, "Hey, thanks for checking us out. (Just message us) if you have any questions." Or like, "Oh, you like that style? That's a great choice! You designed that build because of x, y, and z."

 

We still, to this day, --regardless of having over 100,000 followers across social media-- we still try to make each moment with our customers a memorable one.

 

And that's something we did very early on when we had like 50 followers to right now. And I think that that'll be a piece of what we do continue to value.

 

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Chase Clymer

Let's talk about the beginning. You got a product, you got a website. Was your first website on Shopify?

 

Jimmy Hickey

No, it was on Squarespace. Squarespace was great for simple, clean layouts, but wasn't great for Ecommerce. We jumped the ship about a year and a half into business, I think, to Shopify.

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm.

 

Jimmy Hickey

I remember seeing the backend of Shopify and just be like, "Oh yeah. That makes sense. That's entirely designed for Ecommerce, not just design websites."

 

Chase Clymer

So, I'm a Shopify partner/guru. Not a guru. I hate that word. I hate the word guru or rockstar when it comes to business.

 

But I mean, I'm a big evangelist for Shopify for Ecom. If you're doing a B2B thing or a portfolio website, Squarespace is awesome.

 

I just told a friend to build a Squarespace website yesterday. People are like, "It's this way or the highway." With any sort of CMS or technology. (But) it's like, "No, they all exist for a certain reason."

 

Jimmy Hickey

Absolutely.

 

Chase Clymer

I think Squarespace is great for the things I listed. But yeah, for Ecom, Shopify is obviously awesome. So during the first few years, before you made the switch to Shopify, how does that work? And what was the growth? How are your sales? What were the struggles back then?

 

Jimmy Hickey

Man, the throwback. So, we started this company with no investors, with no influencers. It was about $1400 dollars and 80 hats is about where we started. I started in the living room with our co-founder, Sarah.

 

She's my ex now, but we were dating at the time. It was just the two of us in the living room. And she was doing a lot of the sewing stuff for our pockets and beanies. I was doing pretty much a lot of the other stuff there.

 

The very first day we launched, we had an opening party. That was super smooth. And then the website went live. I made the website live and I stayed up all night. It went live at 7 am and I went to bed.

 

And when I woke up, I didn't see any sales. I was like "Oh, that's too bad." And then I went to the website I saw (that) we had some emails like, "Hey, the payment process is not working." Or "It's not letting us add something in the cart."

 

Basically there's one button on Squarespace that was (called) "Enable Store." and I never clicked the Enable Store button. (laughs)

 

Chase Clymer

Oh yeah.

 

Jimmy Hickey

That was the very first taste of Ecommerce, at least for that product. The long road started with 3 to 4 hours of the website just not even working once we launched. So yeah, I've been putting out fires every day since then.

 

Some bigger, some smaller, but early on... Honestly, we had pretty good traction from the beginning. It wasn't crazy, but I mean, we were selling a handful of hats a day. I want to say, between 1 and 10 a day, for the first year.

 

Chase Clymer

And how are you getting those first sales?

 

Jimmy Hickey

Through social media pretty much, pretty heavily. We had a... Again, the community was a big piece of us even early on, through our sponsored athletes.

 

So, we have a lot of people who I knew through action/sports photography or just through my friends, and they helped spread the word for sure. We got our hats on the heads of good people who were then spreading the word about it.

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm. Influencer marketing before influencer marketing was the thing.

 

Jimmy Hickey

To some degree. I mean, it was friends rocking it. Some of our friends have a bigger following than others. Some of them are pretty advanced, amateur riders. So that was a big piece of it. We grew from city to city.

 

There are a couple of hubs, especially in the northwest that really got us off the ground like Hood River, Oregon, and Port Angeles and Sequim, Washington, and Bellingham. Those are three of our biggest hubs early on where we just had a lot of people wearing Findlay and they're creating a little bit of buzz around it. It was really like...

 

We didn't have much of a budget for advertising. We really didn't go too hard with a lot of stuff on that, we just had a lot of content. We did contests, we did whatever we could to grow organically at the time and just took it one day at a time. I touched on it earlier.

 

But even at that stage, we really went hard with trying to communicate with our customers when we have not that many followers and it's really easy to go to every person's page and ask questions and comment on stuff.

 

(We) definitely spent a lot of time just directly engaging with our early customers because that was one of the ways that I thought was like, "Each one of these is a potential sale and potential lifelong customer." And it's cool to see... We saw a lot of those early customers that I remember their names from then.

 

Chase Clymer

Nice. And then let's fast forward to now. What's a day in the life at Findlay hats now? What's your guys'... Not your marketing plan. That'll take way too long to explain.

 

What are you guys doing today that's different from back then? Obviously, I know you guys are now getting into Facebook and Instagram a bit with paid. Let's talk about that.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Where do you want me to hit on first? I can expand on that in many different directions. I guess I'll hit it from here. The biggest thing we've noticed in the last year has just been social media advertising has gotten a lot more difficult.

 

Our return on ad spend has dropped so heavily compared to where it was, even this time last year. One of the biggest things, if you talk about hockey stick growth for our brand, was back in 2017.

 

Basically, we were having a slow year from January through May and we're actually behind the year before. Pretty much up to that point, every year, we had doubled in sales pretty consecutively. But for December, the first time we were seeing a down year. We were behind.

 

So I was like, "Okay, we need to change. What's going to be the recipe for that?" I forget exactly what inspired me to do it, but I was like, "Oh. Clearly, Facebook advertising is..." We do it lightly. We probably spend like $20 or $30 a day at the time.

 

And it's like, "Okay, we're not really seeing good results with it but I'm seeing all this stuff that... We should be using it heavier. There are brands that are spending significantly more than that, but they're also way bigger than us."

 

So basically, I'm like "Oh, I need to learn Facebook advertising, inside and out." So I took the Facebook Blueprint course. And then I took some courses on Udemy.

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm.

 

Jimmy Hickey

A great resource for learning. Anyone watching this that's trying to learn, I highly recommend checking out Udemy for any related course to what you're interested in because there's some really good stuff on there.

 

So, I took the other courses on Facebook advertising to get a much better understanding of how it works and realized we had just never, ever really done a prospecting campaign to a Lookalike Audience with a video that just explains who we are and what we're all about.

 

Chase Clymer

Mm-hmm.

 

Jimmy Hickey

That's all it was. So I made that video. We had a lot of great content to pull from. So I made the video, it's very basic. Just an action shot, feature, text below. Very (common to what) you see on Facebook stuff.

 

It was not an incredible piece of work, but the shots were clean and it makes the hats look cool and it hits the good selling point. It's a good selling point.

 

So we ran our first prospecting campaign on Facebook to get video views, objective and then also conversions -- forget (what) exactly-- to a Lookalike audience.

 

To our, I think 10,000 followers we had at the time, on Facebook. And pretty much overnight, that changed our brand. Our return on ad spend for the first week or two was $18, which anyone in Ecommerce knows... For us, $2, is good.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah.

 

Jimmy Hickey

$2 or $3 is solid.

 

Chase Clymer

Obviously, you should be happy at about $5. Anything above that, you should be very happy.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah. I'd love $5. Absolutely. Yeah,

 

Chase Clymer

(But that depends) across the board from prospecting down to retargeting. The prospecting is so expensive. If no one's ever heard of Findlay, you're showing them something, half of those people aren't going to care.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah. Absolutely.

 

Chase Clymer

It's just the cost of doing business up there.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yup. Yeah, but at the time, prospecting campaign at $17 or $18 ROAS, which was just insane. We're not spending that much. We're just bringing in an insane amount of sales.

 

Our average order went up to literally 10 times more than what we were doing at the time. And it gave us the opportunity to move into this warehouse space.

 

We expanded our staff. We had 4 at the time to, I think, 7. Pretty much, pretty quickly after that, it's fully grown since then. So basically, strategic social media advertising was a huge boost in our brand’s existence. Our daily ads then went up significantly.

 

Obviously, from 30 a day, we're probably at the time spending maybe 400 to 600 a day ish, through that summer at least. And then obviously, times change. Content gets old, audiences go stale, a thousand factors go in and then every day since then it's got worse, worse, worse.

 

And then pretty much last September or so, we basically realized that like we needed to start diversifying. We can't just rely heavily on social media advertising. We've been working on other avenues.

 

Right now, one of the biggest things that we've added into our marketing chain is just --I mentioned it earlier-- but just (a) much stronger email marketing.

 

Chase Clymer

Yep.

 

Jimmy Hickey

We've had very basic... 60 days, they get this email. 90 days, 180 days. And then a very basic welcome flow.

 

Chase Clymer

Yup.

 

Jimmy Hickey

And abandoned cart and that's pretty much it. And we're now working with an agency that is just responsible for this month. They've done... 20% of our sales have been entirely from email marketing.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah. I see that across the board.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Which was 3%.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah.

 

Jimmy Hickey

It went from 3% to 20%, all because of this single agency. So it's been little things like that. We've been backed into a corner and have to figure out what the appropriate route is to go from there.

 

Chase Clymer

I think that... I don't know who said it, that email was dead or email marketing is dead. They are a liar.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Heh.

 

Chase Clymer

So, for the most part... I have (met) so many people who are like, "Oh, I heard email wasn't 'it.' I need to do Facebook and Instagram advertising." I'm like, "Well, that cost money. And you already have this email. Why not just do that?"

 

So, I don't know. That's just me going off on tangents. So I want to go back to... You said something about how the ads would get cold on Facebook.

 

I don't want anyone to take this to heart that they need to do it for their business, but like how often (do) you guys recycle... Not recycling. But producing new content for those campaigns?

 

Jimmy Hickey

Pretty much weekly.

 

Chase Clymer

Yup.

 

Jimmy Hickey

It varies fairly heavily depending on the process. Retargeting is fairly consistent with dynamic ads. We try to sprinkle in --It's not all like "Buy! Buy! Buy!"-- It's "Value. Value. Buy! Funny. Value. Buy." It varies.

 

But for prospecting, we have a pretty good arsenal. And again, we work with another agency for our social media advertising now. It just got to the point where I just didn't have the time to day-trade looking at our campaigns.

 

And I still am in our Ad Manager daily, but I'm not A/B testing and split testing, doing all this different stuff each day. And our agency, luckily, is pretty awesome with One, testing all the different campaigns and testing all the different creatives, and offers, and texts, and copy and all that.

 

But because I have a good enough background and understanding of it, I can see... I understand what they're doing, why they're doing it, even with the meetings and all that. But yeah, we're changing our content up pretty often.

 

Some of the videos have been around... The very original video that gave us that big hockey stick growth, we ran that video up until the last couple of months, with a very low daily spend. But it was such... I think, --I forget-- it had, I want to say, 12 million views. I think it's a little... It's probably past that.

 

But it was just really tough for me to turn that one campaign off, regardless of it not really performing well. It was just tough to see that that original one just go down. So yeah, we're recycling and testing.

 

We've tried different stuff until it stops... We stopped getting good returns on it. And we'll find something that works and we'll see if we can make it work better. So yeah. Having fresh, changing, content is definitely important. You don't want to get fatigued too quickly.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah. I see (that) that is usually the number one problem with people when they're at the point where paid advertising makes sense for the brand.

 

They don't have the systems in place within their business to produce content fast enough. One photoshoot every quarter is definitely not enough.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Oh no. Absolutely.

 

Chase Clymer

(laughs) (If it's) a week-long photoshoot, then maybe. Video outperforms photography. Especially, when I was younger doing this, before the agency, we'd have some clients that would be like, "Here's a folder with 80 things. Make this work for the next 6 months." Just random videos or pictures.

 

(I'm) like, "Well, that kinda can work, but once you start split-testing stuff, that is gone so fast."

 

Jimmy Hickey

Oh yeah. No, absolutely. Yeah. I wanna say that the photo and video in-house comes into play. We can create content in a day. It's pretty simple on our end to have an idea, execute it, and share it that day. 90% of our Instagram posts were taken within the last hour before you see it there.

 

At least for product stuff and stuff like that. Definitely, content is king and you want to have a nice diverse mix of good stuff. It always trips me out seeing brands, or even people, even photographers just sharing the same style of photos back to back to back. It's like, "Yeah. I saw this exact model, wearing that exact thing --just in a slightly different pose--yesterday.

 

Chase Clymer

No, those are too similar. I wouldn't even notice (that) it was a slightly different pose. Those are the same things to me. Even though technically it's different. It's a different ad name. You definitely want the creative to be different enough that a toddler could tell the difference.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Right. Absolutely. Yeah. And at the same time, if you find a formula that works, run with it.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah.

 

Jimmy Hickey

There are a few photos that will do... Someone holding two hats. One, on one side, with the laces up, one with the laces down on the other side, side by side. And those snapshots just consistently work really well for a 2 -week window.

 

So we'll run those heavily until they stop working and then we'll switch up the hat, switch up the environment. So, there are little formulas within that where it's like (a) recycled concept, but different execution.

 

Chase Clymer

Yeah, don't reinvent the wheel. If you find something that works, remember it, and keep doing it.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah, absolutely. Good point.

 

Chase Clymer

Alright, so we're talking about all these awesome things that you're doing. Let's take it back. Other than forgetting to turn your store on, what's a hiccup along the road, a mistake or something similar that you remember that, looking back on it, you want to help our listeners not make.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Ooh. Wow. Oh God, I mean, I'm still making mistakes all day so I could just look like "right out" out there.

 

Chase Clymer

(laughs)

 

Jimmy Hickey

I say (that) this is more of a big picture thing than an individual mistake. Depending on where you're at in the journey of entrepreneurship, Ecommerce, doing your own thing, be creative or whatever, be ready to dive all-in and make sacrifices.

 

You're making a mistake if you expect to just start something and then get rich, and then just like hanging out on a beach all day because this road is not easy and it's definitely not for everyone. And it's definitely a mistake if you think that it is going to just be all like roses and paved golden roads of happiness because there are sacrifices.

 

There's definitely hardship. There's definitely... It's a sacrifice. You really got to be all in to build something great.

 

Some people will stumble into something amazing without those hardships, but the chances of that from my experience are few and far between. At the same time, the rewards are extremely worth it and if you're actually passionate about and actually love what you're doing, all have those problems that will be worth it in the end.

 

Just don't dive-in thinking it's going to be great from the beginning because you've got to make sacrifices, you got to put in the work, you got to put in the hours. If you're doing it just for the money, if you're doing it just because you think it would create the lifestyle you want immediately, then you're definitely not doing it for the right reasons.

 

So that's more or so coming from the countless 80 hour weeks I put in these last six years and the late nights in this chair right here, staying up late by myself, trying to keep this thing afloat, trying to stay in motion. It's not an easy road but if you do it because you love it and you're motivated to create something that's bigger than you then go for it.

 

Chase Clymer

You know what, I think that that is the best sign off we've ever had on the podcast, man. Thank you so much for being on, sharing your story. Just that last little snippet there. You'd have to wait until the end, unfortunately.

 

Jimmy Hickey

(laughs) But that's the thing. You gotta exit through the gift shop.

 

Chase Clymer

Absolutely. Well, thank you so much.

 

Jimmy Hickey

Yeah. Heck yeah! Happy to be here. I appreciate the opportunity.

 

Chase Clymer

We can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing the truth. links and more will be available in the show notes. If you found any actionable advice in this podcast that you'd like to apply to your business, please reach out at electriceye.io/connect.

 

Annette Grant

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